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Hungarian president Novak resigns over sex abuse case pardon

On Saturday, President Katalin Novak of Hungary announced her resignation following increasing pressure for granting clemency to a man who aided in concealing a sexual abuse case at a children's home. "I made a mistake ... Today is the last day that I address you as a President," Novak said in a speech broadcast on state television.

Reuters EUROPE
Published February 10,2024

Hungarian President Katalin Novak resigned on Saturday after coming under mounting pressure for pardoning a man convicted for helping to cover up sexual abuse in a children's home.

Novak, a close ally of conservative Prime Minister Viktor Orban, pardoned some two dozen people in April 2023 - among them the deputy director of the children's home, who helped the institution's former director hide his crimes.

"I made a mistake ... Today is the last day that I address you as a president," Novak said as she announced her resignation in a speech broadcast on state television.

"I made a decision to grant a pardon last April believing that the convict did not abuse the vulnerability of children whom he had overseen. I made a mistake as the pardon and the lack of reasoning was suitable to trigger doubts over the zero tolerance that applies to paedophilia," she said.

This week, Hungarian opposition parties had demanded Novak's resignation over the case and on Friday a thousand demonstrators rallied at Novak's office calling for her to quit.

In a bid to contain the political damage, Orban, whose Fidesz party is beginning the campaign for European Parliament elections in June, submitted a constitutional amendment to parliament late on Thursday depriving the president of the right to pardon crimes committed against children.

On Saturday, Orban's former Justice Minister Judit Varga - who was expected to lead Fidesz's list for the elections, and who also signed off on the pardon - said on Facebook she would step down as a Fidesz MP, taking responsibility for the decision.